Get Back, JoJo

Will JoJo the bear leave his home in Davie for some Oregon grass?

They're still in violation. "The thing with the USDA," Barbara Spiece says, "is every year they come back and say, 'Do this or that; the regulations have changed, and now do this.' For a number of years, we complied. But every year it's something different, and it's getting to be too much. We said, 'Look, we're not going to do it. If you want to come take the animals, fine. We don't accept animals any more, anyway. All we have now are fowl and the bear. We've had animals for almost 50 years, and we've never had a problem with them. That's what irritates me with these animal-rights people. The real problem is at Easter people buy bunnies, which are real cute for a few weeks, then they grow up to be rabbits. These animal-rights people need to be out there educating people about that. We're not taking [castoffs] any more. That's what we did for JoJo and a lot of other animals. If we hadn't, I don't know what would have happened to them."

On a recent afternoon, JoJo's cage was spotless, although the small pool of water had some green growth on its walls. Twice each day, Randy Williams, who takes care of the bear, uses honey to lure the bear into a holding pen at the rear of the cage. Then he cleans the area and puts down trays of dog food. While giving JoJo a back rub and a thorough scratching, Williams offers his view of the controversy surrounding JoJo's fate. "These protesters piss me off," says Williams, as the bear presents his back to the bars of the cage for more scratching. "He's perfectly happy. A few weeks ago, about 30 of them showed up, and last time [February 18] about 60 of them were here. We don't go to their place and hold up signs. Don't they have anything better to do?"

The animal-rights activists say they're worried about a planned construction project, which will widen Griffin Road; they fear the proximity of the roadway will be even more detrimental to the bear. "The [widening project] doesn't even begin until 1997," Barbara Spiece responds. "We don't want JoJo that close to the road, but it would be a hard thing to move him [to another part of Spyke's]. I'm not sure what we're going to do." Then she adds: "JoJo is at the end of his normal lifespan. We hope nature beats out the transportation department."

For today at least, the bear seems unconcerned. Opening his mouth to expose two-inch teeth in a beary grin, he presses his back to the walls of the cage, oblivious to the human efforts to alter his fate.

Right now he just wants his back scratched.

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